Our Allies in Prevention Coalition is a force to be reckoned with in Northern Virginia. Over 80 members strong, it represents all five jurisdictions of the region and every area of service for children and families. Each time the coalition meets, I see members become armed with even more information and strengthened in their resolve to do what is best for those they serve.
Our most recent meeting, held in December at the Beatley Library in Alexandria, featured a panel discussion on Strengthening Community Connections. Coalition members had a chance to talk about the importance of connecting children and parents with the existing resources in their communities, as well as how agencies can work together to reach more families.
The panel included Sally Wood, Recreation Enterprise Manager, Prince William County Parks & Recreation, Emily Thrasher, Family Programs Coordinator, Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation, Diana Price, Central Library Youth Services Manager, Alexandria Library, Reverend Trisha Miller Manarin, Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Robin Hamby, Family Partnerships Specialist, Family and School Partnerships FCPS, and Detective Kimberly Norton with the Prince William County Police Department.
The group was diverse, and that was exactly the point.
“We need to broaden our circles with each other,” said Rev. Manarin. “Even with a separation of church and state, we (service providers) need to engage the faith community.”
Det. Norton added that organizations should help to educate families about other resources. She charged members, for example, to help parents understand the harm that a phrase such as “if you’re doing something bad then the police will come and get you” could have.
Both Sally and Emily encouraged the other service providers to use Parks and Rec when the families they work with need creative ideas and new outlets for strengthening their bonds. They shared the educational, enjoyable, and even intergenerational activities Parks and Rec programs offer for families.
Another great resource for service providers? The library! Diana Price with the Alexandria Library mentioned some of the creative work they’re doing to reach out to those who are intimidated by coming to the library, such as teen book clubs that they offer right in schools.
Robin Hamby with Fairfax Public Schools encouraged service providers to build leadership skills with the parents they work with so that they become empowered to access even more resources and make more connections – from police to parks to libraries – for their children.
AIPC members left this meeting with valuable information and insight to continue building connections they can make in their communities. To help, we’ve developed this Community Resources List. We hope you’ll download the list and share it with the children and families you work with as well.
— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
(Want to learn more about the AIPC? Contact me at [email protected]!)